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I’ve heard it said that every modern historical romance novel has its roots in one of two classic books: Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. I’ve blogged about P&P (too?) many times, and anyone who frequents this blog knows I came around to writing historical romance via Jane Austen fanfiction. But Jane Eyre is another book that has occupied a vast, complex space in my brain ever since I first read it at the age of 12, and I often feel it influencing me as I plot and write my novels now.

For one, Jane Eyre definitely influenced my taste in heroes. Rochester is the blueprint for the intense, brooding, darkly sexual hero with a complex past and a tragic secret. Contrasted with, say, Darcy–whose challenge is to grow beyond the results of a privileged upbringing (pride and prejudice, to name a few), rather than a tortured past. As a reader and a writer, I think I gravitate to heroes who are somewhere between the two. Haunted by the past, struggling to grow in the present. (The exception would be Toby, the hero of A Lady of Persuasion. A less Rochester-eque hero you could not find. But there are events in his heroine’s past that are loosely inspired by Jane Eyre.)

Another of Jane Eyre‘s legacies to historical romance is the theme of equality as essential to the romantic relationship. As Jane says in the clip below, her tumultuous “friendship” with her flinty, antagonizing employer has an unexpected result: for the first time in her life, she feels a powerful man’s equal, both intellectually and spiritually. And when Rochester’s dark, tragic secret is later revealed, Jane cannot bring herself to surrender that hard-won sense of self, even to grasp the love she craves. She will have him on her own terms, or not at all.

I enjoyed the 2006 BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, but the 1996 version is still my favorite. Ciaran Hinds embodies the gruff, brooding, dark humor I always associate with Rochester, and Samantha Morton plays “poor, plain, little” Jane to perfection.

This is a long clip, but a great one. Enjoy!

3 comments to “Movie Club: Jane Eyre. And Rochester.”

  1. Andrea
    · May 26th, 2009 at 12:43 pm · Link

    Everyone who likes Jane Eyre should definitely see the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton! He is superb as Rochester! I love this Movie!!!!
    Timothy Dalton is really sexy and they have excellent chemistry in this version!!!! Go BUY/RENT IT IMMEDIATELY!!!

    • Nancy J. Collins
      · August 25th, 2011 at 8:48 am · Link

      Timothy Dalton was hands down the greatest Mr. Rochester (and I am a big fan of Ciaran Hinds). I would like to see Richard Armitage 😆 play this role as well.

  2. rb
    · August 11th, 2010 at 1:33 pm · Link

    Nice reference. But I love love love the 2006 version. Can’t beat it, for my money. But any praise of any version of Jane Eyre is good as far as I’m concerned! 😉